Ask An Attorney: I Just Got Convicted Of A Crime — What Do I Do Now?

Ask An Attorney: I Just Got Convicted Of A Crime — What Do I Do Now?

More than 70 million people in the United States have criminal records. That makes criminal records just as popular as four-year college degrees. This means that most of us have either been convicted of a crime or know someone who has. So, if you or your loved one just got convicted, what happens next?

If You Just Got Convicted, You’ll Be Sentenced

At the end of a criminal trial, the jury announces its verdict. Sometimes it’s not guilty, and sometimes it’s guilty. If the jury finds you guilty, and you’re facing a prison sentence, the judge will schedule sentencing. Depending on the case, the judge may either place you in prison until sentencing, or they may release you until then.

If you just got convicted of a crime, you might have questions.
Image courtesy of Larry Farr on Unsplash.

At the sentencing hearing, the judge will determine your sentence based on a variety of factors. Specifically, in North Carolina, “Punishment Grids” control sentencing. These outline the types of sentences that apply based on the date and type of conviction as well as numerous other factors.

In most cases, the judge will then send you to prison.

Next, In Some Cases, You’ll Go To Prison

Undoubtedly, going to prison is one of the scariest steps in the process. Because there are more than 50 prisons in North Carolina, it’s virtually impossible to tell you what to expect because so much depends on the specific facility. But we’ll briefly address two of the more common questions you might ask.

What can I bring with me?

The first thing people often wonder about is whether they can bring anything with them. The answer is yes, but you still need to think wisely.

In general, you’ll be able to bring prescription eyeglasses and medications, a document with the contact information for your attorney and loved ones, foam earplugs, and rubber or foam flip flops for showers.

Once in prison, loved ones can also send you cards and letters, photographs, appropriate magazines, newspapers, books, bibles, and puzzle books.

You should avoid, however, bringing anything worth a significant amount of money. We’re talking about jewelry, cash and other valuable belongings.

Can I stay in touch with loved ones?

People also often worry about whether they’ll be able to stay in touch with their friends and family. The answer to this question is yes as well.

While there are certain restrictions, it’s generally possible for loved ones to physically visit you in prison. Prisons may limit visitations due to circumstances like COVID-19. But facilities like the Wake Correctional Center have been scaling back those restrictions as of late.

Loved ones can also call you and send you mail. In terms of mail, some facilities make the process even easier by using websites like jpay.com, which allows you to communicate back and forth with inmates online rather than through handwritten letters.

If You Just Got Convicted, You’ll Also Consider Filing an Appeal

In North Carolina, most individuals convicted of a crime can appeal their conviction as a matter of right. This means that they don’t have to ask permission to do it: they automatically get to appeal.

If you just got convicted, you can appeal.
Image courtesy of Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

To do so, an individual must provide notice of their intent to appeal within 14 days. A defense attorney usually handles the process beyond that. But, eventually, the North Carolina Court of Appeals will hear your case. The Court of Appeals will then issue a decision. Ordinarily, this process lasts around six months.

If the Court of Appeals rules against you, you can then appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court. In most cases, the Supreme Court has discretion to consider your case, meaning that it doesn’t have to.

There are, however, exceptions to that general rule. Specifically, if the Court of Appeals did not unanimously decide the case or addressed a “substantial constitutional question,” you may automatically take the case to the Supreme Court.

No Matter What, You Need To Care Of Yourself

The World Health Organization puts it bluntly: prisons are bad for mental health. Many factors contribute to this, including violence, overcrowding, a lack of privacy, isolation, inadequate healthcare, and more.

If you just got convicted, take care of your mental health.
Image courtesy of Jude Beck on Unsplash.

Roughly 15% of individuals in state prisons have serious mental illnesses. That percentage, while seemingly low on its face, means that nearly 400,000 individuals behind bars suffer from psychiatric diseases. In fact, just the Los Angeles County Jail, Chicago’s Cook County Jail and New York’s Riker’s Island all hold more mentally ill inmates than any psychiatric hospital in the U.S. — individually.

Ultimately, if you or your loved one just got convicted of a crime, you’re likely scared. You know sentencing, prison, and an appeal are in your near future, and you don’t know what to do next. There are a lot of things, but perhaps the most important one is simple: take care of yourself.

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